I got the boys to nap in the afternoon. I was of two minds about this. On one hand, maybe just put them to bed at 8pm and they'll have seder when they are old enough. On the other hand, they are old enough to remember it is special and exciting, and with a nap, they'll be able to manage. It was a challenge to get them to sleep, but it did pay off. They were alert, not cranky, and not wild. We were guests for both sedarim this year. When we are home, we do one seder with just the family and no guests so that we can tailor it completely to the children's needs. This year, Sarah was old enough to participate with the general seder, but Ari did the boys the first night as soon as he captured their attention (I wore a hat that kids get from the matza factory and was asked why I was wearing it a few times, which segued into conversation about how telling the story of the night is best done via questions and answers), pretty soon after Karpas. Chana sat next to me the first night, and as you know, I had been wracking my brain the previous week trying to figure out what would be the most interesting thing for her during the seder.
Sometimes you just get lucky. As I sat next to her, I asked her questions as I thought of them. I tried to think of questions that she might find interesting. At one point, I asked her why she thought blood was the first plague. Like what was Hashem trying to accomplish with the plagues, and how was blood a good first choice. Chana gave a solid explanation about how the Nile was the source of all their sustenance, how it was a deity, and how blood would have a powerful emotional effect. I asked her why she thought frogs would be next. This question really captivated her and for the next hour, she hypothesized about each plague and why it was chosen and why that order. She was more satisfied with some of her answers than others, and she made a few points that I had never thought of. It was a fantastic discussion, completely driven by her and her interest, and she kept coming up with theories and was eager to discuss it. It was everything I hoped and wished for in terms of her being excited, involved, and stimulated.
The second night I put the boys to bed before the seder. Ari sat next to Chana and I sat next to Sarah. It was a really profound experience for me to sit next to Sarah. We sort of had our own little chevrusa during the seder. It's remarkable to be at the end of the chinuch road, and to see Sarah so interested in learning, so capable of analytic thought, and so thoughtful in the answers she gives to questions.
At one point, she said that the essence of the hagada is to tell the story, but we always tell the story for the little kids, and we never do "sippur" (telling the story) on an advanced level for adults. So I told her to tell it to me, and she did, and it was fascinating to hear her perspective and which details she chose to include. At one point she admitted that it was probably advisable to take out a chumash and actually look more closely at the pesukim! I hope that as the children grow, we will be able to take her up on that.